Just when yesterday was shaping up to be a quiet day in the baseball world, news came roaring in the evening and the offseason landscape has changed entirely.
The big news is that Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Otani is coming to MLB come hell or high water, but the Pittsburgh Pirates could also put one of their top homegrown talents on the market.
Happy Thanksgiving Eve, baseball fans. Here's the rumor roundup!
Shohei Otani will be posted
It's official, folks. Nippon Ham Fighters star pitcher and outfielder Shohei Otani will be posted and almost definitely be on an MLB team in 2018. Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported last night that MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) have agreed to terms on a new posting system set to take effect next year.
The previous rules of the posting system still apply this year. Bids on Otani will be capped at $20m and since he is under 25 years of age, he will be subject to international signing rules and earn anywhere from $300,000 to about $3.5m on a minor league contract. Going forward, however, NPB will receive a percentage of a posted player's first MLB contract, thus allowing more MLB teams to get involved in the process and not be automatically shut out due to limited finances.
One thing is certain, and that is several teams will line up to woo Otani. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most international bonus money to spend, each having a little north of $3m, but teams like the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets could also be in play. Otani leaves the Fighters with a .286 lifetime batting average, 48 home runs, and 166 RBI in 1,170 plate appearances over five years. On the pitching side, he posted an astounding record of 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings, also over a five-year period.
Otani didn't play much last year thanks to a nagging ankle injury, but the reality of the matter is that he is now in a position to change the landscape of American baseball as we know it. The man is called the Japanese Babe Ruth for a reason and if an American League team is comfortable letting him fill the DH spot on days he doesn't pitch and he succeeds, then he might one day demand a deal that shatters the number someone like Bryce Harper could command next year.
Gerrit Cole walks the plank?
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the news and for an unexpected reason. Rather than star outfielder Andrew McCutchen being on the move, it is another homegrown prospect who could be traded this offseason and that homegrown prospect is right-handed starter Gerrit Cole, who Pittsburgh selected with the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft.
According to Mike Berardino of The St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minnesota Twins have called the Pirates asking about Cole, and also the Tampa Bay Rays about righty Jake Odorizzi. Berardino reasons that both players have two years of arbitration remaining and thus would provide the pitching-needy Twins some cheap arms for 2018. Cole will be 27 on Opening Day next year and Odorizzi 28, so it could come down to a matter of both preference and cost for Twins front office tandem Thad Levine and Derek Malvey.
No disrespect to Odorizzi, but Cole is the superior option for Minnesota in spite of his taking a step back last year to the tune of going 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA. Keep in mind, however, that it was just two seasons ago in which Cole was 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.09 WHIP en route to finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting.
And just what caused Cole's drop over the past two years is unclear. His ground ball rate (GB%) went from 48% in 2015 to 45.8% last season, but that's not much of a drop to make a difference. His fastball velocity hasn't changed either, so it really could just be bad luck. His FIP was just 4.08 compared to his 4.26 ERA and Pittsburgh ranked 21st in baseball with 99 errors as a team in 2017. A rough year Cole might have had, but the blame cannot be placed squarely on his shoulders.
Either way, if talks between the Pirates and Twins gain traction, Cole could be in line for a prime rebound year. Target Field favors pitchers immensely and though Cole himself is not a traditional groundball pitcher, playing on such a young team in such a big stadium could wind up being beneficial to him. The Pirates could also use that plus his past success to try and milk top prospects from Minnesota, so keep an eye on this rumor for sure.
Get well soon, Aaron Judge!
This isn't so much a rumor or important breakthrough as it is a tidbit, but it is important just the same. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com has reported that New York Yankees star right fielder and 2017 American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge underwent surgery on his left shoulder on Monday for what is being called "loose body removal and cartilage cleanup" and that the power hitter is expected to recover in time for Spring Training.
Judge's slump after the All-Star Break suddenly makes a lot more sense. He was hitting .329 at the break and even won the Home Run Derby, but then slumped to the point where he hit just .230 in July and .185 in August. Judge's strikeouts also increased in this slump and he actually set a new MLB record for most consecutive games with a strikeout, and his batting average for the season was just .284.
Judge turned things around at the end and hit .311 in September, and he also finished 2017 with 52 home runs (a new rookie record) and 114 RBI. Here's hoping he can pick up right where he left off now that his shoulder is healthy and help the Yankees get back into regular championship contention.